An introduction to weed pollen and hayfever
Hayfever, or allergic rhinitis, affects almost 20% of the UK every year and can trigger some debilitating and uncomfortable symptoms. When we come into contact with pollen, sometimes our immune system perceives it as an invasive threat and releases a number of inflammatory chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.
Weed pollen allergy is one of the main causes of hayfever but it can be difficult to avoid, especially when we are unaware of the type of pollen that is causing our hayfever symptoms. Once we recognise the type of pollen responsible for our allergies, it becomes easier to identify ways of minimalizing our contact with the offending plant, and of avoiding potential irritants.
How can I tell if I am allergic to weed pollen?
The best way to confirm that weeds are responsible for your hayfever symptoms will be a visit to your doctor. They can perform the necessary procedures that can determine the type of pollen that you are allergic to. These processes normally come down to a blood test, or a prick test.
- Prick test: A prick test can sound rather unpleasant but it is not as painful as its name suggests. Your doctor will inject a small amount of allergens just under your skin and wait to see what samples trigger an allergic reaction. Once your body reacts to the allergens, it gives your doctor a clear idea about the type of pollen causing your hayfever symptoms.
- Blood test: Blood tests are not the preferred method of determining your pollen allergy, but they are usually used when you suffer from an existing skin condition, or are taking medication that might hinder a prick test. Your blood will be sent away to a laboratory to be analysed and the findings should tell your doctor what type of allergy you are suffering from.
Types of weed pollen
Weed pollen allergies are not as common as grass pollen allergies, but they still occur in some hayfever patients. If your symptoms seem to linger beyond the traditional hayfever season, then the chances are that weed pollens are responsible for your misery as some species of weed tend to pollinate later on in the year than other plant types.
- Ragweed: Ragweed usually pollinates between July and October, dispersing millions of pollen particles into the air. Once dispersed, ragweed pollen can travel for hundreds of miles and act as a strong allergenic
- Dock: Dock weeds used to be used to produce a yellow dye and are commonly believed to soothe nettle stings. They are extremely durable, able to grow on a variety of soils, and are usually found in grasslands. Dock weeds pollinate between June and September, and are considered to be common allergens
- Mugwort: Mugwort is normally found in Europe, and pollinated between August and October. The weed used to be used to flavour beers and ward off moths but nowadays, people still believe that the plant has medicinal properties, with women often using it to regulate their periods. Mugwort pollen can cross-react with food products such as celery, carrots and some spices, triggering an oral allergic reaction
- Nettle: Nettle is a stinging weed used in some herbal remedies, such as Utrica drops, and can be found anywhere throughout Europe. It normally pollinates between April and October, and it is considered to be a mild allergen
- Oilseed rape: Oilseed rape is often used in cooking oils, and is not generally considered to be a strong allergen. This is because oilseed rape pollen cannot remain airborne as the pollen particles often stick together, making it denser and heavier
- Plantain: Plantain can be found virtually worldwide and pollinates from May through to August. It can also be used as a herbal solution to ease sinus problems, such as with our Plantago remedy.
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How to avoid weed pollen
It would be impossible to completely avoid weed pollen, but you can take preventative steps and reduce your contact with the offending plants. This should decrease your hayfever symptoms and allow you time to recover and build up your immune system once more.
- Keep an eye on the pollen count: Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to beating your seasonal allergies. Go to our A.Vogel Pollen Count page to help you to know what the pollen count is in your area and when it’s safe to leave the house.
- Plan your trips carefully: Some species of weed flourish in woodland areas or grasslands, so take particular care to avoid these hotspots. It might be worth considering spending more time at the beach, as the pollen count is generally lower here than further inland
- Watch what you eat: If you are allergic to pollen, it can affect how your body reacts to certain foods. If what you are eating contains similar proteins to the pollen triggering your allergic rhinitis, then this can cause an oral allergic reaction. If you want to find out more about the foods you should be avoiding, please check out our Diet and Hayfever page
- Get someone to weed the garden: It can be torturous watching your beautiful garden become a breeding ground for common weeds, but direct contact with the offending plants will only inflame your hayfever symptoms. If you must tend to your garden, why not enlist the help of your friends or a local gardener? Keeping the weed population in your garden under control will minimalize your contact with the irritating pollen particles
- Don’t hang your washing outside: Leaving your laundry to dry in the sun can be tempting, but the chances are that tiny pollen particles will stick to your linen and clothing, irritating your skin and upsetting your allergies. In this instance, you’d be better off sticking to indoor clothing racks or your tumble-dryer.
- Wash yourself regularly: We know you probably do wash yourself on a regular basis, (or at least we hope you do!), but during the hayfever system it is important that you take your normal grooming practices a step further. Pollen can stick to your skin and nest in your hair so it is advisable to have a quick shower after venturing outside and especially before you go to bed at night.
- Wash everything: It isn’t just skin that pollen particles are attracted to – bedding, clothing, carpet, curtains, all of this needs to be cleaned regularly and vigorously. If pollen starts to make a home for itself in your house, then you’ll be trapped in a vicious circle of symptoms and struggle to find relief
- Wash your pets: If you own dogs or cats then you are probably used to them roaming in and out of the house during the day. This can be problematic though, when you suffer from pollen allergies. Your pets can be trailing pollen in and out of your house on a daily basis, making it difficult for you to cope with your symptoms. Washing them regularly will ensure that the levels of pollen in your household are kept at a bare minimum
- Wear sunglasses: Sunglasses are essential when it comes to keeping your eyes protected from harsh UV lights, however they are also useful for shielding your eyes against pollen particles, preventing you from inflaming your hayfever symptoms
- Close your windows: When the weather is hot, it might seem like a recipe for heatstroke but leaving your windows open will only enable pollen particles to enter your home and contaminate your living space, inflaming your symptoms and making you miserable.
It is important to try and treat your hayfever symptoms as soon as they begin to emerge. If you leave your symptoms lingering, they can lead to wider health problems such as conjunctivitis, sinusitis and other respiratory illnesses. There are plenty of home, herbal and conventional remedies out there to ease your allergy induced pain and discomfort.
- Home remedies: Common home remedies for hayfever are normally targeted at relieving your congestion and soothing your sore throat. Drinking a honey and lemon juice can have anti-inflammatory properties, and ease the pain of a sore throat while inhaling steam can be good for relieving congestion. This can be done by indulging in a hot bath or holding your head above a bowl of steaming water. The steam should soften the mucous membranes, allowing fluid to drain properly down your nasal passages
- Herbal remedies: When it comes to alleviating hayfever symptoms, why not try our Pollinosan Hayfever Relief Tablets? Pollinosan is made up of seven different types of herbs, each aimed at easing common hayfever symptoms such as coughing or earache. Pollinosan tablets can also be taken alongside Pollinosan Luffa Nasal Spray, which works by cleansing your nasal passages of harmful allergens
- Conventional medicines: The most common conventional way of relieving your hayfever symptoms is take anti-histamines. These can bought over the counter but have been shown to trigger drowsiness and lethargy, making them unsuitable to take if you plan on driving or operating heavy machinery. If your doctor feels as though your hayfever symptoms have escalated, he might prescribe you some steroids to take, but remember that these should not be taken for more than ten days in a row.